FEBRUARY 12, 2017 – Al Jarreau, one of the world’s great singers and a song stylist who defied categorization for decades, died today in Los Angeles at the age of 76.
The seven-time GRAMMY winner had recently announced his retirement from the entertainment business after being hospitalized for exhaustion. Jarreau had fought through respiratory and cardiac issues in recent years.
“We feel very fortunate to have worked with Al, one of the most distinctive and extraordinary vocalists in the music,” says Concord Records President John Burk. “He was truly a force of nature and a beautiful human being that will be fondly remembered and deeply missed by us all.”
Jarreau had little interest in boundaries or preconceived limitations. Since the mid-1970s, he applied his distinctive and instantly recognizable vocal style – a unique combination of lyrical swing and captivating vocalese – to a broad spectrum of musical genres. With this eclectic approach, he earned much success along the way – enough to position him as the only vocalist in history to claim GRAMMY Awards in the three distinct genres of jazz, pop and R&B.
Jarreau’s final recording, My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke, was released August 5, 2014 on Concord Records, a division of Concord Music Group. The album, which re-interpreted some of Duke’s renowned catalog of post-bop, jazz-fusion, R&B and Brazilian jazz, spent two weeks at #1 on Billboard‘s Contemporary Jazz Albums and Current Jazz charts.
A statement by Joe Gordon, Jarreau’s manager was released this morning:
Dear friends, family and colleagues,
Al Jarreau passed away this morning, at about 5:30am LA time. He was in the hospital, kept comfortable by Ryan, Susan, and a few of his family and friends.
Ryan and Susan will hold a small, private service at home, for immediate family only. No public service is planned yet, but I will inform you if that changes.
Ryan asks that no flowers or gifts are send to their home or office. Instead, if you are motivated to do so, please make a contribution to the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music, a wonderful organization which supports music opportunities, teachers, and scholarships for students in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin. A donation page is here. Even if you do not plan to contribute, please list that page and give yourself a few minutes to watch a beautiful tribute video that Wisconsin Public Television produced to honor Al when he received his lifetime achievement award in October.
Jarreau was born in Milwaukee, WI in 1940. He was the fifth of six children. After college, he moved to San Francisco and eventually hooked up with George Duke. In 1968, he moved to Los Angeles where his music career started to take off. In 1976, he released his first album, We Got By.
Jarreau has released 21 albums, and was featured on countless others. One of my favorites is the song, The Waters of March, which also features Oleta Adams. This song is from the A Twist of Jobim album. This is a tribute album for Antonio Carlos Jobim. Many of the Smooth Jazz All Stars got together to remake some of his greatest songs. Jarreau is also featured on the song, Girl From Ipanema.
As I am writing this, I am listening to the iconic track, Take Five. This song embodies the Al Jarreau style.
As you listen to the Al Jarreau catalog today, listen to the vocal stylings. There will never be another vocalist like him.